I have been reading lately the kind of book that finds itself with nearly each and every page bent at the corner, flagged for importance. The book, “If You Want To Write,” by Brenda Ueland, has been living on my bedside table, residing under my pillow and forced to bend over my bathtub ledge for the past two weeks. It’s the kind of book that is savored, like the last bits of melted chocolate on a summer day candy wrapper.
In the book, Ms. Ueland shares letters written by Van Gogh describing his reasoning and intent for creating art.
“It is a feeling of love…and enthusiasm for something,
and in a direct, simple, passionate and true way, you
try to show this beauty in things to others, by drawing it.”
And somewhere inside me, my heart soared. And somewhere in a field of grass and gardens and branches and woods, under one little white tent, 27 sets of eyes and hands would begin the beautiful process of collecting beauty and drawing it into journals and canvas and hearts.
And in the early morning light, we walked side by side through paths of chicory and clove and ran passed queen ann’s lace wearing crowns of dew. And nature was sweet to us. Groves of mushrooms stood still for their close-ups while each cricket leapt on cue, the dragonflies circled in applause and these small wisps on open eyes, their eyelashes folding like butterfly wings.
And they called me Ms. Chrissy and I giggled each time their mouths formed the words. Their hands stretched high into the clouds with questions of pencils and erasers and sketches that waited to be set free from heart to head to hand. And I felt my breath go deeper each time their pencil found the page and the closed doors were opened and the canvas was no longer alone.
And we talked about foreground and background, focus, pattern and perspective. And it’s this very thing, the part that we focus on, that becomes our foreground.
“What are you focusing on?”
And my background became my foreground and the dreams that were once hidden were in perspective again. And their small hands rearranged the landscape inside of me and all I could see was their beautiful eyes and the wonder and awe that grew from the tips of their small fingers.
And I prayed that all of the things this self-taught heart knew would be enough. That maybe somewhow all of my backward approaches to the canvas, to the sky, to the opening of the heart and eyes would somehow make sense to them.
There are these things we place in the background and maybe once they were there, right in the front, where we could see them and be reminded of their stature inside our hearts. But duty and fear and uncertainty push them to the back, behind trees and gates, abandoned barns and rivers. And we forget about the flower we left growing without water or seed or love.
And I watched them sit in front of their blank canvases, their white seas of uncertainty and jump, place the brush into the paint and dive into it’s white abyss. And some would run, leaping into the watercolor world of unknown, while other’s would move slowly, methodically choosing each color and hue while others needed my hand on theirs to push the brush past questions and fears. And I held on while they found their way through new colors, new shades, new textures and tones.
And there, under our little white tent, we found our courage together. And they held my hand just as I held theirs.
And she drew me a picture. She opened my fingers and laid it in my hand, folded eight times, corner to corner, with my name written on the front, “Ms. Chrissy.” And she hugged me. And everything I ever wanted in the world was a vast background compared to the opening of that gift. And there she was, my foreground.
Something happens when you make your way through the tall overgrown grasses of curiousity, the muddy backgrounds of wishes and blurred foregrounds of wonder. Collecting beauty is finding the thing in between, the part that holds it all together, the wish, the want, the canvas new and the canvas old.
And right there, in focus, is this very thing called Love.
Thank you for gifting me your beautiful children for four days. It was an honor and joy to spend time and behold all of their magic and love. And thank you to all of the amazing parents that stayed to help, baked and brought snacks and fruits of all shapes and sizes. My heart is all a pitter patter with nothing but gratitude and love.
It's LOVE! It's LOVE! It's LOVE!